Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

wreak havoc

To cause a lot of problems. Termites have wreaked havoc on the structural integrity of our house, unfortunately.
See also: havoc, wreak

play havoc with (someone or something)

To cause issues or disruptions for someone or something. The road closures have played havoc with rush-hour traffic. This humidity is going to play havoc with my hair.
See also: havoc, play

wreak havoc (with something)

to cause a lot of trouble with something; to ruin or damage something. Your bad attitude will wreak havoc with my project. The rainy weather wreaked havoc with our picnic plans.
See also: havoc, wreak

wreak something (up)on someone or something

to cause damage, havoc, or destruction to someone or something. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) The storm wreaked destruction upon the little village. It wreaked much havoc on us.
See also: on, wreak

wreak vengeance (up)on someone or something

Cliché to seek and get revenge on someone by harming someone or something. The gangster wreaked his vengeance by destroying his rival's house. The general wanted to wreak vengeance on the opposing army for their recent successful attack.
See also: on, vengeance, wreak

play havoc

Also, raise or wreak havoc . Disrupt, damage, or destroy something, as in The wind played havoc with her hair, or The fire alarm raised havoc with the children, or The earthquake wrought havoc in the town. The noun havoc was once used as a command for invaders to begin looting and killing, but by the 1800s the term was being used for somewhat less aggressive activities. For a synonym, see play the devil with.
See also: havoc, play

play/wreak ˈhavoc with something

cause damage, destruction or disorder to something: The terrible storms wreaked havoc with electricity supplies, because so many power lines were down.
See also: havoc, play, something, wreak

wreak havoc

Create confusion and inflict destruction. Havoc, which comes from the medieval word for “plunder,” was once a specific command for invading troops to begin looting and killing in a conquered village. This is what Shakespeare meant by his oft-quoted “Cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war” (Julius Caesar, 3.1). Although the word still means devastating damage, to wreak it has been transferred to less warlike activities, as in “That puppy will wreak havoc in the living room.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the The Birds of Killingworth (1863) stated, “The crow . . . crushing the beetle in his coat of mail, and crying havoc on the slug and snail.”
See also: havoc, wreak
References in periodicals archive ?
There, at the main entry WREAK, was WROKYNE, a Middle English spelling of the past participle of WREAK (what today would be rendered as WREAKED).
"The recent snowstorm wreaked havoc on the Chicago area.
'There is no basis for fear that it will 'wreak havoc' because the transition will be made smooth, orderly, effective and efficient.
To wreak and to wreck differ again from to "reck", a word I frequently come across in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
They climbed up scaffolding and threw slates and poles onto cars Watch as PS300,000 of damage caused after three teens wreak havoc at Huddersfield Rail Station 5.
The Welsh delegate said: "I am so glad that Labour's hugely important legacy of Devolution means the Coalition Government in Westminster cannot wreak the havoc on our health service as they are doing in England.
Vandals in North Tyneside wreaked the most havoc in North Shields, (1,372), and Wallsend, (1,281), while the most incidents in Gateshead were in Gates-head Central and Quays.
"But they are nerds with the potential to wreak havoc amongst financial institutions and other key businesses as well as wrecking thousands of ordinary private users' systems across the world."
Two others--frosty pod and witches broom--are found only in tropical America but would wreak havoc on the chocolate industry were they to spread to West Africa.
The only problem seems to be the restless, grasping, ever-complaining ghost of Scrooge's old partner, Jacob Marley who seems to want to wreak havoc and revenge among those he deems responsible for his dismal fate of walking the earth wrapped in the chains forged from his own avarice.
A single ecological invasion--the introduction of a nonnative species to an environment--can wreak havoc on a fragile ecosystem.
Narconon classes, given to students in grades three to 12, advance Scientology concepts, such as claims that the "body stores all kinds of toxins indefinitely in fat, where they wreak havoc on the mind until 'sweated' out," wrote Nanette Asimov for the Chronicle.
I am also concerned about the newsletter's use of the term "most" when referring to the proverbial handful of colleges that are hyper-selective and wreak havoc for the true most of us.
Once you've arrived, if you're prone to motion sickness avoid travel on rural roads or onboard a ship; it can wreak havoc.
Read below how steroids wreak havoc with brain and body.